Secure attachment (something only 60% of Americans were raised with) is a term I was vaguely familiar with, but have learned about in more depth through my work in Makom. Our go to book at Makom was recommended by our Director of Member Services, Ben Madsen, PsyM and is called “The Emotionally Absent Mother: How To Recognize and Heal The Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect,” by Jasmin Lee Cori.
Secure attachment comes about when childhood emotional needs are met. Before reading this book, I knew about neglect (i.e. not feeding, bathing, or clothing a child) and emotional abuse. But as Cori points out, childhood emotional neglect can do serious damage to a human being and can be accidentally done by loving and hardworking parents who have their own attachment wounds.
If some or all of these basic needs are unmet due to childhood emotional neglect, the child will likely grow up feeling empty, rudderless, and there’s a good chance she will feel like she doesn’t belong in her family, body, and/or community. Cori explains that a child’s emotional needs are met through “Good Mother Messages,” which a child needs to hear or experience as she grows up from an attachment figure.
If the Good Mother Messages make a person emotional, chances are it’s because there’s a hole there. (Cori, in her book, lays out how to heal these holes – more on that later). The Good Mother Messages are:
I’m glad that you’re here
I see you
You are special to me
I respect you
I love you
Your needs are important to me. (You can turn to me for help.)
I am here for you.
You can rest in me.
I’ll keep you safe.
I delight in you.
Cori, interestingly notes that there are the spiritual Mothers in the world. She names Mother Nature and Mother Mary, but since she’s not Jewish, she doesn’t know about the Shechinah – the feminine presence of God that surrounds us and protects us. The Schechinah was especially present in the desert, when the Children of Israel were leaving Egypt and appeared as the Ananei HaKavod – the Clouds of Glory. These clouds both surrounded and protected our fledging nation just as a mother surrounds, comforts and protects her children. These Clouds of Glory are the very thing we think of as we sit in our Sukkahs, gazing up at the Schach above, being once again immersed in this feminine, nurturing quality of God.
As I was thinking about all of this archetypal mothering messaging baked into the Schechinah and Ananei HaKavod, I realized that probably all of the Good Mother Messages can be found in Torah texts and that by virtue of being a child of God, we are supposed to know these truths innately. It is only when a person is unfortunately raised in a dysfunctional home (again, even in one with love and effort) that the child may have these messages blocked from her knowledge. Here are some of the Good Mother Messages I found so far in Jewish sources. Feel free to fill in more!
1. I’m glad that you are here
“You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride,” [God speaking to the Jewish people in Song of Songs]
2. I see you
The LORD looks down from heaven; He sees all mankind. (Psalm 33)
“[God] knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21).
3. You are special to me
“For G-d chose Jacob for Himself, Israel for His treasure (Psalm 135:4)
4. I respect you
“Since you are precious in My sight, and honorable, and I have loved you….” Isaiah 43:4
5. I love you
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you with kindness.” Jeremiah 31:2
That love is unconditional
“Even though he has sinned, he is still Israel,” Sanhedrin 44A
6. You needs are important to me. (You can turn to me for help.)
“You open Your Hand, and sustain the needs of all living (creatures),” Psalm 145
“… [the Lord] heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds…” Psalm 147:1-6
7. I am here for you.
Though my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will take me in. Psalm 27:10
8. You can rest in me.
“He will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, grant me the protection of His tent, raise me high upon a rock.” Pslam 27
“God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble…” Psalm 46
9 I’ll keep you safe
“I say of the LORD, my refuge and stronghold, my God in whom I trust…He will cover you with His pinions; you will find refuge under His wings; His fidelity is an encircling shield.” Psalm 91
10. I delight in you
“Hashem delighted in your ancestors and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations….” Deuteronomy 10:15
According to Cori, the way a person heals childhood emotional neglect is by self-parenting. The hurt person needs to heal her inner child (or children) who are still very much present in her day to day experience. She heals them by telling them the Good Mother Messages they never got. Now, many people find this process shameful – to have to be their own parent.
I am only just starting to develop this idea, and plan to speak to more mental health professionals, but I wonder if childhood attachment wounds could be healed with Good God Mother messages. Perhaps by reminding ourselves of the love, care, and protection our Parent in Heaven has for us and has always had for us, we can give ourselves the nurturing and compassion we have been missing for so long.
I hope to write more on this, as I speak with more experts, but in the meantime, I am contemplating the Good God Mother Messages as I sit in my Sukkah feeling the loving presence of God surround me.
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Thanks for sharing this article. I am not Jewish, but I thoroughly enjoy Jew in the City. I can relate to the brokenness of the neglect, but can also speak to the love I feel from God as a nuturing parent – His Schechinah is real and amazing! David wrote that if our parent(s) forsake us, then the Lord will take care of us. That knowledge is comforting.
WOW! On Point! As we say…Yasher Koach/May you go from strength to strength. Sure you’re not Jewish?
Wow I’m really stunned. The Jewish custom is to say chapter 27 for a month before Rosh Hashanah until the end of the sukkos holiday, which was last Wednesday. It was initially very hard for me to say it, but I really worked to make myself believe it. I focused on the exact verse you mentioned- even if my parents haven’t been there for me, G-d can still take care of me.
It’s so interesting that you mentioned it at this time.
Simply an outstanding article.